Becky v. Butte-Silver Bow Sch. Dist. 1 was a case before the Montana Supreme Court in 1995 concerning the definition of public writings.
This case defined public writings as "documents generated or maintained by a public body which are somehow related to the function and duties of that body."
- Robert Becky, a senior at Butte High School, was a candidate for the National Honor Society(NHS), due to his grade point average. Membership in the National Honor Society is selected by the faculty at the high school based on character, leadership and service.
- The school considers NHS a voluntary organization that is separate from official school business. Evaluations are made anonymously and no records are kept by the school.
- Becky was denied admittance to NHS based on evaluations conducted by a number of teachers.
- On May 1, 1995, Becky's father contacted the school demanding the names of the teachers who had rated his son poorly. The same day, his lawyer contacted the school and with an official records request, requested all documents relating to the evaluation of Robert Becky for the NHS.
- On May 4, 1995, the Beckys filed suit in district court seeking to compel the district to release the documents.
- On May 9 the district released all the files in their possession relating to Robert Becky. The NHS files were not included, as they were not considered public records and not maintained by the school district.
- On June 1 the district court issued its ruling in favor of the school district and dismissed the Becky's case.
- The Beckys appealed the decision.
Ruling of the court
The trial court ruled in favor of the school district, determining that the records of the NHS were not public writings and therefor not subject to records requests.
The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the trial court, and exempted the documents from records requests, despite the fact that they disagreed with the district's rational. The court determined that the NHS records do not constitute public writings as they were generated by a non-governmental organization for the purposes of the non-governmental organization. The teachers who participate in the evaluations are doing so voluntarily, and not in their capacity as employees of the school district. The court also rejected the contention that the NHS evaluations qualify as "documents of public bodies," which they defined as "documents generated or maintained by a public body which are somehow related to the function and duties of that body." Based on these determinations, the court affirmed the decision of the trial court and held the records exempt.